Employers and their workers will gain more support to see them through an economic deep freeze that could last for months, as the Morrison government prepares a third stimulus package to help companies emerge after the crisis.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to world leaders on Thursday night about ways to shore up the global economy and guarantee supply chains for medicine, in a crucial meeting to ease friction between China and the United States.
In a sign of the global pressures, Australia has offered to help the Pacific region in a wider G20 effort, discussed in the emergency videoconference, to help developing nations deal with the COVID-19 virus.
The strain on the global economy is feeding into the Morrison government's work on ways to shield Australian business, with a focus on measures that could help companies "hibernate" through the worst of the crisis.
The government signalled on Thursday it would take more steps to "further improve" its economic support amid fears that $189 billion in spending and lending would not be enough to prevent widespread bankruptcies.
With help for residential and commercial tenants on the way, the government is also examining wider measures that would encourage business owners to see out the crisis rather than walk away from their companies and workers.
Key concerns include the need for businesses to survive while they cannot meet regular bills for rent or utilities or other services, adding to their liabilities when they emerge from the shutdowns ordered by state and federal governments.
Those who are burdened with heavy accrued liabilities may not be able to restart at all, defeating the purpose of the economic plan.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spoke to bank chiefs this week and has been talking to state counterparts about protections for commercial tenants, although any assistance for residential tenants is a matter for the states.
Union leaders are also central to the next parts of the economic plan, given the need for workplace agreements that can allow a company to shut down temporarily in a way that makes it as easy as possible to restart months later.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government had provided "significant support" to 700,000 small businesses and 30,000 not-for-profit groups by giving them up to $100,000 in cash.
"That is significant and unprecedented support. But yes we are continuing to consider what other sensible and appropriate things we can do to support business," he said yesterday.
Unions are calling on the government to match the policy unveiled in the United Kingdom, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to pay 80 per cent of the salaries of every worker laid off.
Mr Morrison criticised that approach this week on the grounds it would be too slow to put in place based on the experience from the global financial crisis.
"The best way to get help to people is through the existing payment channels, through the existing tax system arrangements," he said.
While the government has not ruled out a wage subsidy of some form, it is not going ahead with the UK approach because the 80 per cent benchmark means workers on higher incomes would get more money from taxpayers.
The UK policy is capped at £2,500 per month, or about $5,000. The Australian income support through the boosted JobSeeker payment is worth $2,200 per month, with no difference according to someone's income prior to losing work.
The Morrison government has defended its approach on the basis that all Australians gain equivalent support from the social safety net.
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